The final season of the Williams Lake Timberwolves

In the 2009-10 season, the Williams Lake Timberwolves played their final season in the British Columbia Hockey League. It came after the T-Wolves had taken a two-season leave of absence from the league.

After their final season ended, the franchise was suspended by the BCHL for not being in good standing. It had accumulated heavy debt to local businesses in the City of Williams Lake and at the time, BCHL Commissioner John Grisdale said it was best to suspend the team.

Before its final season, a trio of Williams Lake businessmen bought the Timberwolves franchise in April 2008.

This article is about the Timberwolves’ final season in the BCHL. I will cover some of the players and hockey staff in terms of how they performed and what happened afterward. Before that, I want to write about the Timberwolves relocation attempts.

Wenatchee or Dawson Creek?

After the 2006-07 season, the Timberwolves took a leave of absence from the BCHL and one main reason was to relocate the team.

Wenatchee, Washington, was a possible destination but a disagreement between Hockey Canada and USA Hockey emerged. When they couldn’t resolve the dispute, the relocation plan failed.

Wenatchee wasn’t the only place considered to be the new home of the Timberwolves as Dawson Creek, B.C. was also a potential landing place. The BCHL governors denied the relocation attempt.

The Encana Events Centre, which is the main arena in Dawson Creek, was still under construction at the time, and there were also questions about travel cost compensation. After relocation plans fell through, the T-Wolves returned to Williams Lake for their final seasons.

Off the ice

Behind the bench for the Timberwolves’ final season was head coach David Dupas. During his career, Dupas played in the BCHL with the Nor-Wes Caps and New Westminster Royals. After three NCAA seasons at Northern Arizona University, he played three seasons for the Fresno Falcons in several different leagues.

Dupas didn’t last long as the Timberwolves head coach and was fired on Nov. 9, 2009. After being let go, Dupas joined the staff of the North Okanagan Knights in the Kootenay Junior Hockey League. Most recently, he served as the general manager for the Okanagan Rockets U15, U17, and U18 teams in the BC Elite Hockey League in 2021-22.

Serving as the Williams Lake’s general manager in 2009-10 was Geoff Murdoch. During their final season, used 49 different players on the roster — 45 skaters and four goaltenders. Fourty-seven of the players who made appearances were Canadian and two were Americans.

That year, the Timberwolves finished with a record of 10-49-1-0 for their worst season statistically in franchise history.

On the ice

During the 2009-10 season, the Timberwolves’ top scorer was forward Ryan Stanimir. In 58 games, he scored 27 goals and 27 assists. Stanimir went on to play for the Victoria Grizzlies and Nanaimo Clippers in 2010-11 before starting his college career.

The Timberwolves goalie who played the most games and had the most wins in 2009-10 was Sean Donnelly. It was his second BCHL season after spending a couple in the Pacific Junior Hockey League with the Richmond Sockeyes. In 34 starts with Williams Lake, Donnelly was 4-25-0 with a 6.06 goals-against average and an .851 save percentage. After his time with the T-Wolves, he attended Williams College to play NCAA Division III hockey.

As for the Timberwolves’ top defender, Riley Sweeney took that title. In 38 games in Williams Lake, Sweeney scored three goals and 14 assists before being traded to the Surrey Eagles at the Jan. 10 trade deadline for future considerations. After ending his junior career in Surrey in 2011, he attended Michigan Tech and had a brief career in the ECHL before playing one season in France.

The aftermath

Long after the BCHL franchise’s suspension in 2010, the Williams Lake Minor Hockey Association continues to use the Timberwolves name. One year after Williams Lake lost its BCHL team, the Quesnel Millionaires relocated to Chilliwack and the Prince George Spruce Kings became the only northern team in the league.

Related: The BCHL Road Show and the future of junior hockey in Quesnel

Quesnel has all the right things in place for the BCHL’s return while Williams Lake still has several obstacles that likely prevent the return of the BCHL to the city. However, if the Timberwolves do come back, it will help reduce travel costs for the Spruce Kings.